Dancefest: Seeing Movement For What It Is

Local Arts Reviews

Stillpoint Dance
Stillpoint Dance


Dancefest: Seeing Movement For What It Is

Texas School for the Deaf,

January 27

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company
Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

It was a cold night, oh my lord, it was a cold night. Last Thursday, I found myself slogging across the frozen tundra of the Texas School for the Deaf track fields along with a crowd of die-hard dance supporters for the second night of the second annual Austin Dancefest. In fact, the weather didn't stop anyone from coming, and as we trudged through the front door, a large group of people were already standing in the foyer sipping coffee, watching The Creeps, the slow-movement performance group who, adorned in tight, shiny gold cloth and white body makeup, were performing a lovely exploration of statues-in-motion to the accompaniment of swelling space guitar.

And that pretty much set the tone of the evening: the nipping cold and urgent explorations onstage. Sitting in the cavernous TSD auditorium, my shivering was interrupted by the sound of bagpipes: the musical accompaniment to the first dance by the Austin Scottish Country Dancers. Their presence was a surprise as well as a testament to the diversity of this festival, which this year included performers working in Irish, Middle Eastern, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Korean traditions. Though they started off a little slow, the Scottish Country Dancers worked their way up to a jig and then a complex reel, requiting themselves admirably.

When, a few minutes later, Margery Segal and Jason Phelps of MS/Nerve took the stage with contemporary idioms -- isolated strands of music, image, character acting, text, and movement -- to talk about motherhood in Baby, Baby, Baby, the contrast with the earlier performance was pronounced. In this sense, Dancefest is very brave: Including all kinds of genres on a single program could result in the festival resembling an amateurish community talent show (an impression which the TSD auditorium doesn't exactly help to overcome). Instead, the startling contrasts between performance styles allows you to set aside your personal prejudices and preconceptions and see movement for what it is. In this case, the movement was a sketch rather than a fully formed idea, but it had the all the hallmarks of Segal's best work: the use of repetition, discontinuity, and the separation of basic formal elements to achieve an effect or to express an emotion.

Other standout performances that evening included Eliza Thomas in Inanna Mysteries, by the Sumi Komo Dance Troupe. The piece was all red lights, North African music, and mood: Five dancers alternated between free-form and choreographed movement in an impressionistic dance which explored iconic images of women. Thomas, in her improvisational turns, was lithe and graceful. Sharir + Bustamente Danceworks gave the audience two or three teasing tidbits from a carefully choreographed Entre Lo Que Me Quieres y Te Quiero -- and then they were gone. As if to say: That's all you get for the price of this ticket. But the work, even excerpted, was impressive for its deliberately graceful, stylized simplicity. Stillpoint Dance performed excerpts from its upcoming major project Shadowing Profound Doubt despite the loss of company member Tamara Barrington Yaryan, who was killed in an auto accident the week before the festival. The dancers performed in silence with earnest intensity. Kathy Dunn Hamrick presented the most artfully explored, complete work, From Then Until Now, and the excerpt from So Close was witty, comic, and coherent. The intensity of her commitment to her every movement, her very glance, made her incredibly interesting to watch.

An undisputable success. Of course that was only one night: Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, Johnson/ Long Dance Company, Austin Contemporary Ballet , and others performed on the next night. But I didn't see them because I was at FronteraFest, one of the other performance festivals going on right now. Perhaps next year the two fests can run back to back.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

exhibitionism, arts reviews, dance reviews, austin dance reviews, dancefest, austin dancefest, the creeps, austin scottish country dancers, margery segal, jason phelps, ms / nerve, baby, baby, baby, eliza thomas, inanna mysteries, kumi somo dance troupe

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